Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Bear




A smoky sunrise that I couldn't resist photographing
Last weekend I heard a story about a bear wandering around in a suburb of Denver. This time of year we hear a lot of these kind of stories because it is fall and bears are hunting for food to keep them going during hibernation. It seems like most of these stories end with the “authorities” loading them up and “relocating” them. I'm not positive but I think North Park might be one of the relocation destinations!  There have been lots of stories about bears getting into my neighbors' dumpsters and hanging around people’s ranch buildings and cabins even when there is a lot of activity going on. I have been living ( or spending summers) up here for over 40 years and had never actually seen a bear around here although I have seen lots of signs of bears on my daily walks. Our neighbors have had plenty of incidents and sightings even on our land but I must not be very observant. This brings me to the story of “My Bear”.

One evening about 9PM I was minding my business and reading my book when I heard a light scratching on the screen of the west window. I looked up thinking it was a chipmunk or bird even though it seemed too dark for them to be out. I thought I saw a big paw but just then the phone rang. It is a landline so I had to go across the room to answer. It was my brother and we had some business to discuss. The phone is located next to a big picture window with a smaller window on each side. The windows look out on our porch and then down to the creek.  One of those was open maybe about 6 inches. As we were speaking I looked out on the porch and right below the big window I saw a brown furry back of an animal. I thought it might be a coyote, so I yelled out the open window “Shoooo! Get off the porch!”  

The infamous window where the bear stared at me!
To my horror a bear stood up, put his front paws up on the big window and stared at me not 2 feet from my face with only a pane of glass between us!!!  The phone was still in my hand up to my ear and I screamed and screamed as loud as I could!  Poor Tip’s ears must still be ringing! (I had heard somewhere to make a lot of loud noise to scare bears away). The bear quickly ran away and I “calmly” said to Tip, “Well, that scared him away.”  My heart was beating fast and Tip had no idea what was going on!  I explained and he was laughing with me by the time we hung up. In my mind I was thinking, “His face sure did look like a cute Teddy Bear!”  That night I locked the doors and grabbed my air horn that my son-in-law insisted I take with me on my hikes, and took it to bed with me.  HA!

The next night I was in town until after dark and decided to stay with Danny and Kathi overnight.  We were visualizing me having to make a mad dash in the dark from the car to the door with “my bear” chasing after me! 

 When I told my neighbor about the incident she asked me if the bear had cattle sized ear tags, one in each ear. There were no tags. She had an incident a few years before and the Fish and Game fellows told her if they were tagged they were relocated bears. Mine had no tags so I guess he was wild.

Well, that’s my bear story!  I have some other wildlife stories to tell but none that exciting!  Oh, and my grandsons wanted to know why I didn’t take pictures!  I told them I was too busy screaming! Hehehe!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Two Great Fall Recipes

2 Great Fall Recipes

Fall has arrived at the cabin!
The leaves are changing and there is a snap in the air. Surprisingly we have not had our first frost yet!  Usually it comes before fair but it didn't this year!  I think they are calling for frost tonight. With that in mind I want to share 2 recipes I love that really are old standbys in their generic form but I have tweaked them and they are now extra special!  Here they are:

My Creamy Tomato Basil Soup



I guess I don't know how to make the fancy design with the cream but here is the soup!


Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Flour
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 – 1 ½ Cup milk
8-10 large fresh basil leaves (I just pick a handful), chopped. You can use dried basil, about 1-2 Tbsp.
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
1C.  Chicken Broth
Salt and pepper to taste. I use Trader Joe's Everyday seasoning if I have it. (I use it for everything--I buy several bottles every time I am at their store!)
1/4 C. Parmesan Cheese (in the can or shredded--your choice. 
*optional:  1-2 Tbsp. heavy cream. This really makes it exceptional but adds calories!
These are the ingredients you will need.  I got the tomatoes at Safeway
Here are the onions, garlic and basil.  I grow 3 kinds of basil,  I love using it!
That's one very large clove of garlic about 1 Tablespoon of minced!


Directions:


1.      Make the white sauce by melting butter in a sauce pan. Add chopped onions and sauté until transparent. Add minced garlic and sauté a minute or two. Stir in flour and stir to absorb butter. Add 1 C milk and stir constantly until your white sauce thickens. You can add some seasoning to this or wait until you taste at the end.




After sauteing the onions you add flour and stir to coat onions
Then you add milk and stir until thick and bubbly

2.     Set sauce aside in the pan while you purée the can of tomatoes with juice in a blender or Magic Bullet (I use mine almost daily for everything!). You can put your basil in with the tomatoes to chop them up a little more if you want. Place puréed tomatoes in another pan and heat to boiling. Add the chicken broth and bring to simmer.  Add the basil if you haven't already. 


I add my basil to the tomatoes as I am blending them

3.     Dip out about 1 Cup of the tomato mixture and stir into the white sauce/onion mixture and then pour this mixture back into the tomato purée. This keeps the soup from looking curdled. (Even if it does happen to do this, it still tastes the same).

I'm adding the hot tomato mixture to the white sauce mixture

Now I pour the tomato/white sauce back into the rest of the tomato mixture
4.     Stir and bring to a simmer. Be sure to stir so it won't stick to the bottom. If you think you want more milk you can add it. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I like to add a little cream to my soup at the end.  It makes it smooth and rich!

5.     Stir in the Parmesan just before serving. You can garnish each bowl with a sprinkle of it on top too. As for the whipping cream, you can also stir it in at the end or add a Tablespoonful to each bowl and make a design like they do in lobster bisque in the hoity  toity restaurants!  I just stir it into my soup bowl when I'm having it for lunch by myself.


Add some Parmesan cheese and any seasonings you want and you are good to go!
Bon Appetit


This brings tomato soup to a whole new level from Campbell tomato soup!  Now next is a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich that goes with our soup!  I had this at a new restaurant in Casper Wyoming last weekend and it was delicious!  I hope my copycat version is as good as it was!



Adult Grilled Cheese Sandwich





MMMM! Look at all that melty cheese!  A really yummy sandwich.

I am playing with this sandwich and I think anyone can, after they try my original version.  I actually can’t get the Asian Pears here in tiny Walden, Colorado, so I am using the only pears I could find which I think are Bartlett.  They still give that nice pear flavor to pair with the creamy Swiss cheese flavor.  I also think the restaurant used some kind of fancy Swiss cheese like Gruyere that didn’t have holes.  This, of course, was not an option for me!  Any way I made it and it still tasted delicious.  One other thing, I think it mentioned in the blurb on the menu that it had some kind of jam—maybe like fig jam in it.  While I was eating the sandwich I couldn’t taste it or see it so I think the sandwich is good to go without that addition (which, of course, I couldn’t find at our grocery store either).  If you have it, give it a try if you wish!

Ingredients for 1 sandwich:

3-4 thick slices of onion—about ¼ inch thick.  They cook down a lot so use lots!
3-5 slices of Asian pear – thinly sliced—less than ¼ inch at least
2 Tbsp. soft butter
2 slices bread of your choice (the restaurant used sour dough)
2-3  slices of thick sliced Swiss cheese (enough to make a nice covering of the bread)
*Possibly some kind of fancy jam if you are adventurous or have some to use up.

The ingredients for the Adult Grilled Cheese Sandwich




Directions:

1.     Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a small frying pan.  Place onion slices (you can separate them into rings) and caramelize them.  Toward the end add the pear slices and saute all until the pears start to get translucent but are not falling apart. 

*Please note that I learned a lot more about caramelizing onions than I ever thought I would use!  I googled it and found that it takes a long time to do it if you do what they say! I set my burner on medium and it did not take the 45 minutes the first lady said!  Anyway I will give you a link if you want it and I also did add just a touch of balsamic vinegar to the  onions and the pear slices.   The pear slices only took a couple minutes to cook in the same pan with the onions.






                    Caramelizing the onions and the pears

2.     Meanwhile take one slice of bread and arrange the Swiss cheese slices on it (if trying the jam you will need to spread it on the slice of bread first).
Cover your choice of bread with the sliced cheese.  Use lots so it is real cheesy.  I used Whole Wheat
3.     When the pear/onion mixture is done arrange onions and then pear slices over the cheese in layers.  Add the top slice of bread to make a sandwich.






Layer caramelized onions onto the cheese and then the pear slices.

4.     Spread the butter on top of the top slice.  Flip the buttered side down onto a griddle or frying pan and grill until lightly browned and cheese is starting to melt.  While this is cooking, spread some butter on the top of the cooking sandwich.  When ready flip it over and grill the other side.

Butter the top of the sandwich while the bottom is getting golden brown!
5.     Slice in halves or quarters and serve with your soup!  Yummmm!


I’m thinking of other combinations that sound pretty good to me.  One is the onions (which really make the sandwich), cheddar cheese (coming from Wisconsin, I love the extra sharp but use what you like best) and apple slices, I’m thinking Honey Crisp or Granny Smith possibly on rye bread or whole wheat or sour dough. I bet there are some other Adult type combos you can come up with too!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

My Thoughts on Mother Nature

Lately I have missed writing in my blog.  My reasons may sound crazy--or maybe lazy is a better word but here goes my explanation:  I have written dozens of blogs in my head but when it comes time to put them up on my blog site, I keep thinking about how long and how many problems I have to solve to get where I want to go!  Do any of you get what I am saying?  It takes almost a whole day to get it the way I want it and then 9 out of 10 times it still gets messed up and I have to figure out another way to do it!  Well I just have to bite the bullet and get this show on the road again!

The smoke around our house was thick on Sept. 5, 2017!

I keep thinking about subjects for my blogs but I never follow through!  Here are some thoughts for today. The smoke has been terrible up here in our high mountain desert. My eyes are scratchy and the sun doesn't feel as warm as it should. I can't see the mountains or favorite landmarks from my usual breakfast spot where I drink my morning coffee.

Smoke makes for very pretty sunsets


A beautiful day for fishing.  The fish don't mind the smoke, I guess.

 I do have to admit that the sunrise and sunset is quite beautiful seen through a thick haze of smoke but I could forgo that when I think of all the damages that happen from these persistent wildfires!  We have had what I would call light smoke almost all summer. This has come from fires in Montana and Canada, but this past week there have been several wildfires burning just to the west of us on the other side of the mountain. We even saw a helicopter with a bucket hovering over some nearby mountain lakes.

The old Haskins cabin.  Also known as the "bat



I know I am whining about my minor discomforts when I should be grateful I do not live in Houston or Rockport (where we spent one winter and I loved it and many people I met down there).  Or around the Gorge in Oregon, or just about anywhere in Montana where they have over 40 wildfires burning or in Southern Florida where they are bracing for one of the strongest hurricanes the Atlantic has had in many years!  My heart goes out to all the people struggling to survive these disasters.  I have visited many of these places and dread to see what people will have to contend with in the aftermath.  I guess I just feel like I have to document my little slice of life, pray for all those who are dealing with the abundance of natural disasters we seem to be having and try to help however I can.

On that note I think I will share a few pictures just in case we have a lightning strike up in the
National Forest  we border on and which is littered with miles of beetle killed trees. Yes, it is only a matter of time and we all know the thinking is to "let it burn" to get rid of all the downed timber.




Our winding driveway into our house


Even the beetle kill has changed the beauty of our mountains and our privately-owned lands as well. Mother Nature will have her way!  I still feel blessed to live in "God's Country". Please remind me of this about February of next year when we are snowed in and the wind is howling!



As a matter of fact that might be way sooner than February!

                                        


My favorite time of year in North Park is just around the corner. Every year I take pictures. It seems like the same trees are more beautiful each year. I have included some from years past.  They are from 2007 before we could see what the beetles had done to the pines!

This photo was taken in 2007 before the beetle kill became apparent!

*Note:  I just got information that the reason it was so smoky that day we saw the helicopter was because there was a fire in the Forest about 1 ½ miles from us that had been started by a campfire!  This, when there was a ban on all fires in the National Forest!  They did get it put out with the help of the helicopter!

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Who Was Melvin Muffknuckles?

Happy Valentines Day!  Yes, another Valentines Day is here and I am wondering how it is going to turn out for me.  Is it a very big day for you?  It never seemed very big to me, but then I start remembering some of those days and they make me laugh, feel very nostalgic, or bring back some very fond memories.  So far today I planned a nice kind of fancy meal for Carla, Jim and I and even bought a "dozen" roses that I have chosen to believe Melvin Muffknuckles sent to me.  Now you KNOW a story has to be coming next, right?  First of all I had to put dozen in quotes because there were only 9 long stemmed roses, 2 stems and one blossom that had fallen off a stem.  I got them from a bin in Walmart marked $4.67, a real bargain! When I checked out at a self check out station they rang up at over $15.00!  Being self check out I messed around a bit and finally decided Melvin still would have bought them for me, so I got them anyway.
My roses from Melvin Muffknuckles


The rest of this story has to have a spoiler warning for some of my own children--it will probably be a tear-jerker......
So who is Melvin Muffknuckles?  That has been a question never exactly answered.  Here is how it goes.  Back in the day when I was teaching Home Economics at North Park High School in Walden, Colorado, my students had to raise money to travel to FCCLA conferences and competitions.  At this school we did it on Valentines Day by selling roses.  The first year we sold fresh ones that someone had to go pick up in Laramie (60 miles away over a snow covered pass).  We took orders for about a week and then ordered them from a florist in Laramie and of course once we started delivering them more people wanted to order some so a parent had to make a quick trip back down there to get some more.  It was very successful but stressful as well.  Anyway, 3 of my 4 children were still in Jr. or Sr. High School at the time and some were involved in the fund raiser.  Toward the end of the day a delivery was made to me of some roses from Melvin Muffknuckles.  My students and my own kids all claimed they didn't know who it was.
The next year we all learned how to make silk roses and I got supplies from a warehouse in Denver and they turned out just beautiful!  It was very successful and way less stressful although we all had to work hard to get so many made.  I again received roses from Melvin Muffknuckles!  Still no one fessed up to knowing anything about it.  We continued making silk roses for Valentines Day for many years and I kept receiving them and no one ever did confess.  Over the years I received other gifts from Melvin and I always suspected it was my husband, Bob Manville, who sent them.  Today I decided these roses should be from him too. They are beautiful!
Have a great Valentines Day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Back With Online Sewing Resources for my Friends!!

It has been a long time since I was here but some friends requested these lists of good online resources for patterns and fabric so here they are and I think I'll just add the post I mentioned at the end of the lists! I needed to jazz up the blog so here are a few pictures from our Christmas at Palm Desert, California.

Christmas in California with some of my family! In front:

 Paul and Thomas Row 2; Britt and me. 

Back:  Jim, Carla and Caroline 

   Resources to Buy Online Fabric

Here is a list of some of the many online fabric sights that I or someone in
 my family
 have used.   Many of these offer a sample pack so you can feel and see what 
the actual
 fabric is like.  Since we have limited sources for fabrics, especially knits I 
think it is
 worthwhile to check these out.

1.     Zenith and Quasar Fabrics-- https://www.zenithandquasar.com/  
love these 
knit fabrics!  They have prints, Active wear fabric, some stretch velvet, 
some panels
.  They do not have a lot but what they do have is really great fabric!  They
 do have
 a free sample pack

2.    Girl Charlee-- https://www.girlcharlee.com/
Girl Charlee Fabrics is your online retail and wholesale source for top
 quality unique knit fabrics. We offer exclusive knit fabrics by the yard
 at the lowest price. You may find it somewhere else, but it will not be 
cheaper!  Girl Charlee Fabrics offers hundreds of different prints and
 solid cotton jersey knit, cotton lycra knit, cotton ribbed knit fabrics, and
 much more. We offer fabrics by the yard, in half yard cuts, and our
 famous multiple yard bargain lots!

3.  Purple Seamstress -- purpleseamstressfabric.com/  Your source for
 unique, fun, quality fabrics.  Lots to look at here!

4.  Sew So English Fabrics -- http://sosewenglishfabrics.com/ Welcome to
 So Sew English Fabrics! We are happy to be thriving and that you all are
 so excited over our fabrics! We focus on supplying you only the best quality
 apparel knits, wovens, trims and appliques. If we wouldn't bother sewing 
with it, we won't stock it in our store. For now that means that our order 
processing time is longer than we would like due to popularity.  The shipping
 time may be longer but it is a cool sight and worth looking at.  It has knits
 and wovens.

5. You Made Something-- www.youmadesomething.com/ lots of fabric
from quilting cotton, themed fabrics, knits, notions, bargains you name it
 they probably have it!  I have made leggings and knit tops with fabric from them.

6.  Snowy Owl Creations --https://www.snowyowlshoppe.com/ --  Thank you
 for visiting Snowy Owl Custom Fabrics and Hawaiian Fabrics & More. 
We offer quality, unique, and affordable fabrics.  I bought winter prints here that I
 have been making into leggings.  They have a wide selection of knits and also
 Hawaiian prints that are woven.  They also have custom preordering that my 
daughter uses but I have never tried!

7. Knitpop   knitpop.com/ Lots and lots of knits! French Terry, Poly blends,
 sweater knits of all kinds, Liverpool, you name it they probably have it!  I have
 made lots of things from Knitpop and have a stash for making more when 
summer comes!

8.  Fabric.com -- fabric.com-- home decor, apparel, quilting fabrics plus notions,
 bargains, etc.  This is like JoAnn’s or Hancock’s online.  I have had some good 
luck here but you might want to try to get some swatches before going wild!

Hot tubbing on Christmas Day in the yard of 

our rented house














There are a lot more sights for fabric shopping!
  Many of these sights have Facebook pages that 
have discounts, sales and auctions on them if you
 wish to join their groups.  I usually just buy
 the fabric from the sight.  I know I got a lot of 
fabric from Knitpop when they were having a
 sale one time….


 Resources for Online Patterns

1.      Patterns for Pirates--.Patterns for Pirates is all about stylish,
 modern design
 for everyday, wearable clothes for the whole family. From baby 
to adult these 
PDF sewing patterns will fill wardrobes with comfortable pieces
that will be worn
 over and over again. www.patternsforpirates.com/.  Free pattern
 if you join their 
Facebook page.
2.     Love Notions--At Love Notions you’ll find modern sewing
 patterns for 
the whole family. All patterns are instant downloadable
 pdf’s. https://www.lovenotions.com/.  Free pattern if you
 join their Facebook page.
3.     Stitch Upon A Time-- PDF sewing patterns for men, women,
 children. stitchuponatime.com/. 
4.      So Sew Easy--  A great sight for sewers and quilters.  Lots of
 sewing tips, free
 patterns and patterns for sale for clothing, purses, crafts and 
much more.  Lists of 
fabric resources as well.   http://so-sew-easy.com/
5.     Made For Mermaids -- What are we about?? Sweet, simple
 and girly patterns.
 Garments you and your children can wear everyday comfortably,
 but can easily
 dress up too! We’re here to help and love to share our love of 
sewing. Girls, 
Mamas, freebies. https://www.madeformermaids.com/
6.      According to my daughter who has 2 sons in their 20’s this
 is the best raglan pattern for men. 
https://www.etsy.com/
listing/257586874/jerrys-raglan-shirt-mens-pdf-sewing

 Facebook pages where you can join and get codes in order to get some
 pattern for free.  There are many other places to get patterns if you want 
to do a Google search but these
 I or someone in my family have used and like their patterns.  Some of 
these sights have Facebook pages where you can join  and get codes in
 order to get some patterns for free.


I guess I can't copy and paste my other
 blog so here is the URL if you want to
 see it.

 http://www.blakemansewvac.com/
blog/index.php/2017/01/08/is-garment-sewing-obsolete/

Sorry for the small print.  I'm having trouble 
formatting!


Climbing rocks in Joshua National Park   

Evening as we headed back to Palm

 Desert from our

 day of  rock climbing in Joshua

 National Park 
































































Sunday, January 11, 2015

Memories of Backwoods

This is one of the Backwoods Christmas parties.  The only Backwoods picture I have at this time.



 Back row: Einar Erikson, Harold Zuehlke, Ransom Tyler (my Dad), Ned Elton  Sitting:Rick Zuehlke, Pug (my Mom), Tom Erikson, Tip (my brother) in front, Henrietta Erikson, Janet Erikson(in front), KD Elton, Me in the grey sweater, Lynn (my sister), Eddie Elton.  Sitting in front on the right: Sue Zuehlke, Phoebe Zuehlke and I think Ned's Grandmother sitting in the chair.

Now I am going way back to reminisce about the great times we had in our neighborhood which we called Backwoods.  These memories were brought on because I just received word that the eldest of the Backwoods kids, Rick, has just passed away.  There were 8 of us and Rick Zuehlke lived next door and was probably 5 or 6 years older than I was.  The rest of the kids in backwoods were:  Janet and Tom Erikson, Sue Zuehlke (my best friend and confidant of our childhood.  She is a year older than I.), Lynn (my sister), Tip (my brother), and Ned Elton (Closest in age to me and my "boyfriend" through our childhood).

  We were a close knit group of kids because we lived sort of "out in the country".  We all went to the same elementary school (fondly called Jefferson Jailhouse) and were more like sisters and brothers than friends.  All of our parents went together and bought a piece of property from a farmer and built 5 houses in the farmer's backwoods during the depression!  It was so unusual that The Milwaukee Journal did a piece on the construction, complete with pictures, back when they were building the houses in the early 1930's. This was before I was born, of course.  The property was located about  a quarter of a mile from the Milwaukee/Waukesha county line.  Jefferson School was 1.2 miles from our houses and we walked and then later rode our bikes to get there and back home. It had started out as a 2 room school (I'm pretty sure Rick and Janet were in school at that time), but each room was then divided into 2 rooms and by the time I went there, there were 2 classes in each room.  There was no kindergarten so none of us except my brother (the youngest of the Backwoods kids) even went to kindergarten.

The backwoods was a pretty big piece of property of many acres and we had woods and ravines to play in.  Each family had a large vegetable garden (WWII was in full swing in my very early days and they were called Victory Gardens) and the Eltons  (who lived next to us on the other side) had grape vines and a raspberry patch down over the hill in back of their house. (the scene of one of our major adventures).   They had a chicken coop too.  Dad had an asparagus patch down there and there were currant bushes that Mom had us pick from to make currant jelly.  We had a chicken coop, apple trees, and a place for a milk cow (Daisy) too.  Dad had a compost hole that he made fertilizer in and he also tapped all our maple trees and Mom made maple syrup from the sap.  It was our job to collect the sap each day in the spring.

Some of my other memories of those early times were of Dad picking honeysuckle blossoms and Mom making honeysuckle fritters with them.  I never have tried it myself but I do remember how we loved those fritters! Dad also had crabapple trees and at least one plum tree.  I remember that Dad would get up early and go out and pick flowers for Lynn and I to put in our hair on Sundays and he always had fresh flowers for the house all summer long.

 Every week or so all summer the families of the neighborhood would take turns hosting a potluck Backwoods picnic. These were not quite the backyard barbeques we all think of now.  None of our properties were fenced so we had all 5 yards to play in.  The picnic sights were not too near the houses and we did not have barbeque grills. Our moms cooked over the open fire or made most of the food at the house and then brought it to the picnic sight. The grownups would sit around the fire visiting long after dark and all the kids would play 50 all scatter, Sardines, and other games using the whole neighborhood as our playground.  There were no city streets, only our private dirt road that the 5 houses used to access West Howard Avenue.

The other Backwoods event was an annual Christmas party.  It was hosted each year by a different family.  It was a potluck and I think our moms organized it so whoever hosted it had the main dish and the family that had it the last year brought the dessert and so on.  All the kids drew names for giving presents and I think there were family gifts given by each family to each family.  We had a big feast and then the whole group would play Charades (when we got old enough).  Oh how we loved playing that game!  I guess the youngest kids had to go to bed so it was a right of passage when you got to play Charades with the grownups!



There were other Backwoods gatherings but those were parts of our adventures to be remembered another day!

So long, Rick, I never forgot you calling me Vanilla Pecan instead of Penelope Ann, the time you tried to get Sue and I to pose sitting under the hose you hooked up to the clothesline pole so it dripped cold water on us in 99 degree and 95% humidity weather so you could take a picture to enter in a photo contest, and your early Disney movies shown on a sheet that you charged us a few pennies to watch after dark night after night. I will always picture you working on that Model T station wagon in your driveway.